In the days before widespread polymerization, toys were scarce. The game of “Mousetrap” was not a colorful board-based game, but rather something parents thought up in order to rid the crawlspace of vermin and keep kids out from underfoot for a couple of hours. And the things known as “dolls” back then would be virtually unrecognizable to today’s youth, made as they were of wood or cloth or even ceramics. And most of the children in the lower income brackets never saw even these, never held a tiny wooden Baby Ethel in their malnourished arms. The state of American play was as deficient of fun as the blood of these children was of iron.
Luckily, those were the days when an enterprising whittler from the woods could make a profitable go of it, carving spoons, clogs or powder horns for whole communities. I had been quite the knifewielder down in the swamp, but I was always dreaming bigger. At the age of six, I developed carpal tunnel (formerly called, “whittlin’ wrist”) and was implored to set down my knife and rest. I remember my fingers literally itching, and my mind going half mad from sloth, as my toy chest contained a dried up bowl of mud and a chunk of wood. There was nothing I wanted more than to carve, but thanks to Dr. Bonvillain-Fontenot, it was strictly verboten. There had to be some way around it. With every day that went by, my dexterity diminished and my abilities atrophied. Then one morning, as my mother Theresa sliced an apple for my porridge, I had my revelation. The low resistance of vegetal flesh would be gentle on my wrist, and I could easily provide many children with inexpensive toys. Were it not for this whittlin’ wrist setback, I would never have bothered to re-think my trade, thus finding the vegetable toy niche.
I started peddling my trade door-to-door, but it was no time at all before I set up my very own booth in the center of town. With the profits, I hired a legion of other young whittlers like myself, and dispatched them across the country in the nation’s first, unacknowledged franchise operation. Surely the history books would remember my name, had the accursed child labor laws not put me out of business for good, forcing me back to unproductive pursuits such as catching bugs and putting them in jars and fishing with a stick and bit of twine. Though many people blame the stock market crash for the Great Depression, I am here to tell you that it was child labor laws that started it all.